Historical Literary Recommendations

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne

Less than halfway through this breathtaking book, I knew it would be a lasting favorite. It would sail to the top of my most-adored-books-of-all-time list and stay there. But I was nervous. What if I didn’t love the last half with equal passion? It has been known to happen. The first part of a book is gorgeous and insightful, but then on page 200 the main character does something off and the whole book falls apart at its seams… er, spine. I didn’t want to lose the love I’d found for this read. But my fears proved to be wholly unfounded. My new favorite book just got better and better.

The Heart’s Invisible Furies follows the life of Cyril Avery who, as a baby, was delivered to Charles and Maude Avery by a little hunchbacked Redemptorist nun in 1945, Dublin. With his chain-smoking, literary mother and boisterous, tax-evading father constantly reminding him he’s not a real Avery, Cyril’s childhood is a far cry from conventional.

On top of this, Cyril’s very nature is against the law: he’s gay, which is a sin in 1940’s Catholic Ireland, punishable by a lifetime in prison. So out of self-preservation, he hides his sexual orientation. It is around this secret that Cyril’s life is shaped and his subsequent trajectory shoots off into the most unexpected directions. The story, spanning almost three-quarters of a century, feels epic and vast and each new period of Cyril’s life is as interesting, as captivating, and as unique as the previous.

The winding narrative explores many pieces of the world’s collective history including the corruption of the Catholic church, the Holocaust, and the AIDS crisis, but though the subject matter is often weighty, Boyne effortlessly juxtaposes darkness with light. His is both one of the funniest and one of the saddest books I have ever read. To say I laughed, I cried would not do justice to this reading experience. It would not capture the frequency in which I exclaimed in delight nor the level of despair in which I sobbed. Although it is almost 600 pages, I consumed this book like it might be snatched away from me. It is very clearly my favorite book of 2018 thus far and it would take something absolutely marvelous to dethrone it.

 

 

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